02 September 2007
Something like surrender
Today, my community worshiped God together through an ancient contemplative practice called the labyrinth. It's been used in Christian cathedrals and churches for centuries as a practice for prayerful meditation and centering oneself on God, and began as a safer alternative to pilgrimage to Jerusalem. My parents, who are visiting for the long holiday weekend, were with us, and they participated in the labyrinth walk too, as well as the picnic afterward celebrating our church's sixth anniversary. Between the labyrinth walk and the picnic, many of us shared some of what we experienced while walking and quietly praying together. I was surprised and deeply moved to hear my mom speak up during this time, and say how pleased and touched she was to see me being a part of such a community - such a group of loving friends. I really, really love my mom. :-)
This morning was also moving for me because of my own experience, journeying through the labyrinth. As I began, my thoughts and prayers were very, very heavy. Lately I've been feeling a lot of weight on my heart regarding a situation in which I've felt powerless, but at the same time felt that I shouldn't be powerless. The situation in question is a broken relationship, to which I am a party. I'm used to the concept of turning a situation over to God when there's clearly nothing I can do except pray. For example, if someone I know is suffering from cancer, there's no way I can cure that. All I can do in a case like that is rely on God.
I'm also used to asking God for help in a situation in which it seems clear that on my own, I could do little or nothing to help - but with God's help, maybe I could make a difference. I've gone around and around and around this particular situation in my mind and prayers, because this has seemed like one of those latter circumstances: this is a relationship issue, and I'm a party to the relationship. With God's help, if I'm any good at all, I should be able to do something to make the situation better, instead of worse, right? And I've gone around and around and around, and not been able to come up with a way to do that.
So I walked the path into the labyrinth, thinking and praying about the weight of this on all of us who have been hurt by it. I got to the center and sat down, still heavy. After a little time, my friend sat down next to me, and I served her the communion bread and wine that we'd put in the center, and then she served me. The sacrament felt like a great, beautiful gift to me, to an extent that it rarely has (sacramentally-inclined guy though I am). Just then, the music that the service planners had chosen to accompany our walk switched from a slower, contemplative tune to a joyful, funky, reggae song from the Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu. Many of us started to smile. At least one of us started to dance, boogieing her way along the spiritual path in a contagiously joyful manner. That song, that dance, felt like great, beautiful gifts to me too, and as I began my journey back out from the center, I was weeping a little, but it was mostly tears of relief. I felt like God was saying something to me, and the weight was lifting a little more with each step.
What I felt like I was hearing was this: Mike, shut up. You think that if you're any good at all, you should be able to find a way to bring some healing to this situation, that you should be able to give that gift. Well (like all humans beings), apart from me, you aren't any good at all - but at the same time, you're my finest, most beloved creation. So shut up. Follow me. And I'll use you to give gifts. Maybe even some beautiful ones. But: you don't get to choose which ones you can give.
As I made my way into the prayer silo at the lovely Benedictine monastery where we were worshiping and picnicking, I was asking myself: am I OK with that? After some time, I lay down on the cool stone floor, looked up at the clear blue sky, and felt like it was OK with me.
I'm still going to pray for healing of this wound - probably every time I pray, as I have in the past. (Please don't read this to say that I pray with great frequency - my prayer life is not something I have reason to be proud of.) And I'll still pray for God, or the other people involved, to show or tell me some way that I could make it even a little better.
But I think I may stop obsessively churning my own brain cells, searching for such a way. I've felt like there must be an answer - even a tiny partial answer - that I can find, if I just try hard enough. But maybe for now the only answer I get is: wait on God. Rely on God. And I think I'm learning to be OK with that.